HB commissioners exchange barbs, mayor says ‘bad politics’

An Oct. 8 Holmes Beach commission turned contentious as Commissioner Marvin Grossman first addressed a complaint from Commissioner David Zaccagnino. The two commissioners then engaged in a sharp exchange after the meeting concluded.

Zaccagnino is up for re-election this year, while Grossman is not. But that didn’t stop Grossman from campaigning for challenger Carol Soustek, outing an apparent, growing discord between the two commissioners.

The discussion was over an inquiry made by Zaccagnino to city attorney Patricia Petruff regarding a property in Bradenton that lists Grossman as owner with a homestead exemption on the Manatee County Property Appraiser Office.

As for the homestead discrepancy, it would be illegal for one person to have two properties homesteaded, but Grossman’s residence in Holmes Beach is homesteaded in his wife’s name.

Marvin and Jane Grossman each own numerous properties, and Marvin Grossman purchased the subject property in May 2013. As a clerk at the PAO explained by phone earlier in the week to The Islander, the previous owner’s homestead status remains with that property owner until the end of 2013.

A memo from city staff member Mary Buonagura, who assisted in the investigation of Zaccagnino’s claim by collecting documents from the appraiser’s office, concludes the exemption will expire at the end of the year.

“It has not done so yet since all the conveyances took place in the calendar year 2013,” she wrote. “Therefore, I conclude that this property is not the homestead of Marvin Grossman.”

Buonagura said the Grossman’s property on 84th Street in Holmes Beach was quitclaimed in 2003 and conveyed to the Jane A. Grossman Trust.

“There is a homestead on this property,” said Buonagura.

Grossman claimed Zaccagnino could have cleared up the matter of his Bradenton property without using city resources.

Grossman said he could have let the property inquiry go, but an attack on his family was out of line.

Reading from a prepared statement during the meeting, Grossman said there wasn’t much he could do about “gossip peddling.” He said he hopes “everyone who has worked hard for their property and has a trust on this island doesn’t have to fear that Commissioner Zaccagnino will try to turn protecting your family into a dirty business.”

Grossman said everyone should be concerned that “unfounded insinuations and rumor mongering like this will discourage good people from running for office and doing public service.”

Commissioner Judy Titsworth also read a statement, saying the first thing she was taught after taking office is “treating each other with respect and not to use our position to make each other look bad.”

Titsworth said commissioners should be working together and she was embarrassed by Zaccagnino’s behavior.

Mayor Carmel Monti concluded a series of emails on the matter with the subject heading “Bad politics.” He wrote: “The motive to discredit Marvin was obvious.”

At the conclusion of the meeting discussion, Grossman had been cleared, but Monti said costs were incurred by several city staff to investigate Zaccagnino’s claim. He estimated a full day’s labor by several staff members amounted to “a fair amount of money. To say the least, this is very unprofessional behavior.”

Zaccagnino said he was following up on rumors and thanked city staff for their diligence in clearing up the matter.

“This allegation has been going around the city for the last week,” Zaccagnino said in an email. “Because Marvin is a real estate developer, it is hard for the lay person to understand all the nuances regarding his wife’s real estate trust and those taxes paid by that trust.”

Zaccagnino said that as an elected official, it was his duty to respond to any rumor about possible illegal activity.

“That was the right thing to do and I stand by that,” he said.

“It would be extremely unprofessional to not report this and not get to the bottom of it. I have heard of unqualified officials having their past votes rescinded. If you think that ‘bad politics’ is protecting the integrity and liability of our citizenry, I am sorry we disagree.”

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